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Plea issued for more guide dog trainers in Berkshire

A plea for more guide dog volunteers has been issued by a councillor who says more are needed to meet demand.

Volunteers for Guide Dogs train puppies to help out visually impaired people, who will rely on the canine companions for help getting around.

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green), who works for Guide Dogs, said more helpers are going to be needed to train them pups up.

Volunteers take on a young pooch and train it to be a suitable guide dog. Cllr Werner said the area needs ‘about four puppy walkers’ to get working throughout the summer.

He said: “It’s perfect for a parent at home during the day.”

Anyone with a suitable home can apply to be a walker. They will then be interviewed and their home will be checked out to make sure the environment is suitable.

Children and existing pets are not a barrier to being a puppy walker provided they have the right temperament.

As part of his drive to recruit more walkers, Cllr Werner introduced the Advertiser to Tina Auluck, 50, of Derwent Drive.

Tina became a puppy walker after receiving Rex, a golden Labrador.

“I suppose it’s like having children,” she said.

“It is like constantly reinforcing behaviours.”

The dogs ideally need to get used to not being distracted, know they can relieve themselves before or after a walk outdoors, rather than during, and adjust to crowded places and offices – they need to ‘get used to everything and anything’ to be a fully-fledged guide dog.

Tina had been employed full time up until early last year. After leaving her work, she wanted to do something altruistic and settled on puppy walking.

She got Rex in May and has trained the young dog since then.

Volunteers have a spell at a puppy walking class specifically for guide dogs and have regular meetings with a supervisor, though these become less frequent as time goes on.

Eventually, the dogs will be assigned to someone in need and it is up to the volunteer if they want to continue training pups.

“I would definitely love to do it again,” Tina said.

“It is a great thing to do.

“He (Rex) is going to go and change somebody’s life.

“You can’t put a price on that.”

Visit guidedogs.org.uk for more.

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